Urbanisation of Rural-Urban Migrants: A Case Study of Shiminhua in The Greater Bay Area of China

Change log
Zhao, Hongsheng 

This thesis on “The Urbanisation of Rural-urban Migrants: A Case Study of the Greater Bay Area (GBA) of China” is designed to answer the research question of "How does the phenomenon of shiminhua (urbanisation of rural-urban migrants) unfold in Chinese cities?". It is articulated by two sub-research questions: " What are suitable indicators for measuring the level of shiminhua?" and “What are the features that facilitate or prevent the process of shiminhua?” with a case study on the Chinese GBA region.

To answer the questions, a mixed-method approach was adopted using Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) to construct shiminhua indicators from migrants, completing survey questionnaires to test the indicators and to identify the impact factors, and conducting semi-structured interviews with exploring the dynamics in the process. First-hand qualitative and quantitative data collected from fieldwork in GBA were first analysed separately and subsequently triangulated and corroborated with previous literature.

This research found that the rural-urban migrant’s perception on shiminhua is sharply in contrast with the discourse of shiminhua by the government. From the migrants’ view, shiminhua is an incremental process accompanied by the development of a compromised place attachment and an internalised urban identity. Therefore, place attachment and urban identity are the two most effective alternative indicators for measuring shiminhua with settlement intention as a supplementary indicator. In GBA, homeownership in the city, and social circle with a majority of urban natives are associated with high level of shiminhua, while a local hukou, ability in Cantonese and children’s education are of potential impacts. Successful shiminhua can be achieved by combining personal striving, supportive urban governance in reducing local barriers and continuing institutional reforms in hukou at the regional and national level.

Findings of this study imply that government’s interpretation of shiminhua need to reconcile with the migrants’ perception on shiminhua, by incorporating the above-mentioned impact factors. Moreover, cultural-psychological indicators of place attachment and urban identity can be adopted by the studies of the acculturation process which are similar to the shiminhua process. Finally, this thesis indicates that more research drawing onto interdisciplinary theories and mixed-method can be applied to investigate the interaction of people and the built-environment in the process of urbanisation.

Fennell, Shailaja
Chinese Greater Bay Area, regional development, rural-urban migrant, urban studies, urbanization
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge